Volta-Bani War

Volta-Bani War
DateNovember 1915 – February 1917
LocationBurkino Faso, Mali
Result French victory

France France

Marka, Bwa, Lela, Nuni, and Bobo people
Commanders and leaders
France François Joseph Clozel
France Henri Maubert
5,000 soldiers 15,000-20,000 warriors
Casualties and losses
Unknown Very heavy

The Volta-Bani War was an anti-colonial rebellion which took place in what is now Burkina Faso and Mali (then parts of French West Africa) between 1915 and 1917. It was a war between an indigenous African army resulting from a heterogeneous coalition including people of different ethnicities who fought the French Army. At its height in 1916 the indigenous forces mustered from 15,000–20,000 men and fought on multiple fronts. After about a year and several setbacks, the French army defeated the insurgents and jailed or executed their leaders but resistance continued until 1917.[1]

The war started after the 1915 rainy season, when a group of representatives from around a dozen villages gathered at Bona where they resolved to take up arms against the French occupiers.[2] This took place in the context of World War I and introduction of conscription for the French Army. There was also widespread optimism that the colonial government could be beaten at this moment of weakness. It went through various phases as the colonial army organized two suppression campaigns but initially failed in its purpose, in the face of fierce opposition and superior tactics. The Volta-Bani War is one of the most significant armed oppositions to colonial government anywhere in Africa. It was the main reason for the creation of the colony of Haute Volta (now Burkina Faso) after World War I, by splitting off seven districts from the large colony of Haut-Sénégal and Niger.

The name "Volta-Bani War" was coined in the book West African Challenge to Empire: Culture and History in the Volta-Bani War, which is an anthropological analysis and detailed description of these confrontations, on the basis of military archives documents and an elaborate understanding of the region based on ethnographic fieldwork and oral history. The book won the Amaury Talbot Prize of the Royal Anthropological Institute for 2002.[3] A fictional account of the revolt was the subject of one of the important early literary works of West Africa, Nazi Boni's Crépuscule des temps anciens (1962).[4]


  1. Chafer, Tony. "Review: West African Challenge to Empire: Culture and History in the Volta-Bani Anticolonial War". African Studies Quarterly. ISSN 2152-2448. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  2. Royer, Patrick (2003). "La guerre coloniale du Bani-Volta, 1915-1916" (PDF). Autrepart. 26: 35–51.
  3. Saul, Mahir; Patrick Royer (2001). West African Challenge to Empire: Culture and History in the Volta-Bani Anticolonial War. Western African studies. Ohio University Press. ISBN 0-82141-413-5.
  4. Boni, N. (1962). Crépuscule des temps anciens; chronique du Bwamu. Paris: Présence africaine. OCLC 895374.
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